Volunteers bring free meal to Portales

By Tony Parra

Portales residents were out on Thanksgiving Day trying to share the essence of Thanksgiving with the rest of their community at the Memorial Building for the Second Annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner.
Elvia Garcia of St. Helen’s Church said between 150 to 200 were served when volunteers delivered meals in Roosevelt County from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. She said there were volunteers from the community, Cannon Air Force Base and Eastern New Mexico University. Garcia said people from different backgrounds and ages entered to have a meal in the Memorial Building.
Garcia said the Thanksgiving meal started out with an gesture which touched her heart.
“One couple came in and they almost broke my heart,” Garcia said. “They came in with a cup that had change in it. I told them it was free, but they insisted we accept it as a donation. It was nice of them.”
Pari and members of the Central Christian and St. Helen’s churches, along with community members, will be making a trip to Juarez today to serve more than 300 needy people at an orphanage on Saturday morning.
Some of the volunteers were serving mashed potatoes, turkey, dressing on a line. Most of them were from Cannon Air Force Base.
Paula Eastman said she and her husband, Troy, came from CAFB to Portales to help serve last year, and were excited to come back again. Eastman said some of the CAFB volunteers were from small towns in Mississippi, New Hampshire and Arkansas and share that same small-town feeling with the Portales residents.
Among the volunteers was new ENMU football head coach Mark Ribaudo. ENMU officials announced Ribaudo as the new head coach on Nov. 17 and on Thanksgiving Day he was on a different team helping serve Portales residents a warm meal.
“It’s an efficient group,” Ribaudo said. “They have done a great job of serving the community. Elvia (Garcia) and Veda (Urioste) deserve a lot of the credit. They have worked a lot to put this together. They’ve been working on it for days.”
Jerry Wood was also in attendance and said he is grateful for the Thanksgiving dinner and realizes it’s a luxury many other countries don’t enjoy.
“They (meal organizers) provided a good meal,” Wynella Shaw said. “It’s nice to see the smile on people’s faces. It’s nice to see the kids and their smiles.”
James A. Gibson entertained the crowd while they ate by playing the piano. Joe Pari of Central Christian was helping to cook the turkeys and he said he enjoyed the way the success of the meal and the turnout.
“The volunteers from CAFB were really helpful,” Pari said. “They wanted to volunteer. We had so many turkeys for the meal. I’m glad we were able to share with the rest of the community.
“Today was all about families coming together. You can’t beat that.”